Something inexplicable jolts me. The physical sensations - pounding of my heart, taste of tin in my mouth, shallow, irregular and rapid breathing are intense.
The blankets lay perfectly positioned atop me as if someone had only a few moments ago said ‘sweet dreams’ and tucked me in for the night. The air, shadows, small jewels of light that dance along the ceiling, down the walls and back up again do not move.
Despite the feelings that pulse through me, I can not fully discern my being; who I am, where I am, whether I am asleep or awake. But I can see and feel that I am lying upon a large cart. It's like the base of the Trojan Horse - with an all wood platform, axles and wheels. On it I am being pushed and pulled along by everyone and no one, in and to a stark white place that is both familiar and nowhere I have ever been.
The panic wells in me. Like a large inanimate object my body does not, will not, move. I am sure that I am dead. The fear settles into relief ever so slightly as I hold my breath and scan the room.
Everything is vaguely familiar. The headboard is at my head, the footboard at my feet, yellow and blue gingham wallpaper to my left and throughout. There are stuffed animals, books, photos of friends delicately placed upon the modern Victorian Princess-Style hutch, all glowing peacefully by the light of the moon. The door is beyond the foot of the bed, open. The hall is there, the linen closet, bathroom, second bedroom. I feel the house, the street just beyond the front door, the town, the freeway beyond, big cities and oceans.
It’s a silent scream that fills only my head and tears at my heart alone. Mommy! I can see their bedroom, visible just beyond the unassuming white eyelet curtains. It would take forever to get to her. As if being poked fun of on the playground, the heaviness of the proposition finds its place in my bones and stills me even further. Left turn out of the bedroom, to the dark foyer. Doorbell chimes and whipping belt closet to the right, front door straight ahead, shadows, mean and nasty, lurking. Mommy. Another left turn to pass through the olive green tile counter tops, over the yellow-orange squares of the linoleum floors. The light from the streetlamp flowing through the Redwood tree and brick columns, illuminating the dining room table with its hideous memories, they're like dancing knives and makes my heart skip a few beats and my legs move faster than before. I had a bad dream. Another left turn to the dark and cavernous rear of the family room that leads to the laundry. The wood paneling is awful, it's like stinky dog shit with extra long coarse black hair strewn perfectly and vertically every few inches along the walls. I’m afraid. Just off of the family room, the smallest room in the house is the laundry and has four doors. One leads to the closet-room that holds the washer and dryer. One to the back yard of the house that I’m not allowed to go to anymore without permission. Really afraid. One to the hot water heater that hisses and slaps at its sides and at me every time I walk by and the yard of the neighbor who, every day, suns herself like she’s a rattlesnake preparing to hunt for her next meal. I need you. The fourth door leads to their bedroom. The hinges almost always squeak. It's so loud against the quiet of the night it's like the squeaks are being projected by a bullhorn and startles me no matter how prepared I am. Travelling down the dark hallway to the room is like being in a tunnel. The smell strange, unfamiliar and not like home. I’m afraid of being alone in the dark. It's an unspoken, if not sporadically enforced, rule: No Children Allowed To Sleep In Our Bed. But mommy, please!
I am still frightened, still unable to will my body into action. My breathing is still labored and the blankets are heavy but in reviewing this vision I have come to realize that everything is exactly the way it always is, has been, and will always be. This house, these people, the entire universe surrounds me and it doesn’t matter. I am alone.
After some time laying with the idea of being completely alone, it becomes clear that while it is uncomfortable, it is also a very familiar feeling. This makes it more palatable than when I woke up earlier. Makes my limbs relax a bit. The only difference is that the alone I am feeling now is in the dark and quiet of my bedroom and in the middle of the night. The alone I'm used to is in the company of many people, in my own home, my family, the people that love me 'the most', or in the only other place I am most familiar - school. The discovery is heavy but freeing. No matter where I am: with my mommy, my sisters, in a room of 30 other children, or on the playground with 300 children, no matter if I'm talking, playing, or running, I'm all by myself, first and foremost responsible for myself. And that means I can do anything - become anyone I want to be - for me.
The quiet of the night and it's shadows are softer now. I watch their slow, sweet dance across the walls. Their delicate movement melts me to the point that I relax enough to know that I should go back to sleep now. Morning will be here soon and I'm going to need all the energy I can muster to protect what's most important in the light of the day.